Over the course of a season, there are games that will be difficult against quality opponents, and then there are ones that you think to yourself, "If Juventus doesn't just roll to a win in this one..." Saturday night at the San Siro was more of the former rather than the latter considering the start Milan has gotten off to this season. (Although the way they played against Empoli might completely contradict the previous sentence.)
But Wednesday night at Juventus Stadium ... well, that might be a little different.
You see, Juventus are about to host one of the clubs many expect to fight it out around the relegation zone this season. Cesena may not be there now, having recorded four points in the first three rounds of the Serie A season, but teams don't survive the drop after just three games much like teams don't win the Scudetto after a month into a long, marathon-like season.
Things will most likely be a lot different when these two clubs meet at the Stadio Dino Manuzzi in the early parts of 2015, but Cesena aren't exactly playing poorly at the moment. And Juventus manager Max Allegri is one of the first people to realize it.
#Allegri: "Cesena are in form and keep it tight at the back. Leagues are won by picking up points against the so-called ‘smaller’ sides."— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 23, 2014
Ah, Max. What you're saying to us is so modest yet so true.
This is obviously a match Juventus should win — and especially so since it's being played in front of the hometown crowd at Juventus Stadium. What's still to be done is to actually, ya know, win the game. Pretty easy to do that logic, right?
Latest math equations and fancy formulas tell us Juventus has yet to allow a goal this season in all competitions. They've also won every game they've played. I'd say that's a pretty good start.
Injuries, because what else is bad news right now? No Andrea Pirlo, no Andrea Barzagli, no Luca Marrone, and now no Martín Cáceres. We're not totally sure how long Cáceres will be out for, but Allegri did say he expects him to be back for the Champions League showdown against Atlético Madrid.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. Is this the time Max Allegri decides to do some serious squad rotation?
/channels Allegri's soul/
Why yes, yes it is.
/goes back to normal/
Apparently Max has other things on his mind.
We don't need to go any more about how the schedule is busy these days. But what we have yet to see — intentional because of it being so early in the season or due to the current injury-related squad limitations (or both in some shape or form) — is what Allegri chooses to do when it comes to rotating his squad. In some positions, it's pretty much impossible t do some kind of squad rotation if he stays with a 3-5-2 formation tomorrow night. In others, however, there are options to turn to. Might Allegri give somebody like Álvaro Morata or Kingsley Coman a start instead of Fernando Llorente or Carlos Tévez? Based on what Max said at his pre-match press conference, we might have to wait on that.
2. Gianluigi Buffon vs. Nicola Leali. The Present vs. The Future?
It's always intriguing to watch Buffon face a young keeper in the opposing goal that has been tipped to be one of his possible replacements down the road. It was the case when Simone Scuffet first broke into the Udinese starting lineup and then faced Juventus a few months later, and it will be the same when Leali takes the field against Juve tomorrow night. The one difference between Scuffet and Leali is an easy one to figure out: Juventus actually owns Leali's contract and clearly views him as a possible long-term solution to things in a post-Buffon world. By all accounts, Leali has gotten off to a solid start in his first Serie A excursion. Count me in as one of those who will be doing some first-hand scouting of Leali when he faces a Juventus attack that has quite a bit of talent to it.
Just don't go into God Mode tomorrow night, Nicola. Leave that for the guy you looked up to as a youngster.
3. Keeping the clean sheet streak going.
You talk about the goalkeepers, you must talk about how Juventus' defense has performed to begin the season. Like I said earlier, Buffon recording shutouts have been a common occurrence to begin the 2014-15 campaign. There have been injuries to the backline just as there has been to the midfield and strikers, but they have yet to slip up a bit. Consider this as well: Cesena, with a solid start to the season, has scored three goals in three games. That's not bad, but not overly impressive either. Even with the injuries in defense right now, you have to feel pretty confident that a group of Giorgio Chiellini-Leonardo Bonucci-Angelo Ogbonna can keep a Cesena attack quiet.
4. Who starts in the center of the midfield, Roberto Pereyra or Arturo Vidal?
The true determining factor in all of this is how healthy Vidal really does feel right now. My stance when it comes to Vidal and injuries will never change — especially so this season: If he even feels the slightest bit of something in regard to not being fully fit, don't risk it. And let's face it, with Vidal still working his way back to being totally match fit and Juve playing Cesena, Another reason why sitting Vidal for another game is totally okay with me? The way Roberto Pereyra is playing in Vidal's absence right now. I will freely admit I was a bit skeptical about him when he signed with Juve over the summer. But up to this point, Pereyra has been really, really good. So if Allegri feels like Vidal needs a bit more time following his brief return against Milan over the weekend, you won't find me disagreeing.
I admit, when Pereyra signed with Juventus over the summer, my opinion was rather split.
5. Can Carlos Tévez keep the good times going?
...If he plays, of course. And after Allegri's press conference on Tuesday, the gut feeling about Carlitos playing is a lot bigger than what it was around 24 hours ago. I'm assuming Tévez will play, and that means one of the hottest strikers in Europe right now will get another chance to add to his early-season goal tally. He's netted four goals in three games and has basically picked up right where he left off last season. He's been clinical, he's been decisive, he's been the Tévez we're used to seeing. If Tévez does start and play a lot of minutes, I might not agree in totality with little squad rotation, but I can understand why. It's tough to sit a player who's on a roll like Carlitos currently is. Especially so when he's been arguably more important to the attack this season than he has in the past.
My starting XI (3-5-2): Buffon; Ogbonna, Bonucci, Chiellini; Romulo, Pereyra, Marchisio, Pogba, Evra; Morata, Tévez
OFFICIAL KICKOFF TIME: 8:45 P.M. IN ITALY; 2:45 P.M. ON THE EAST COAST; 11:45 A.M. ON THE WEST COAST
- Talkin' tactics: Juventus display hints of Conte's philosophy in 1-0 win over AC Milan
- "Yet To Be Named" — Juventus news link dump for Sept. 22nd
- Choosing your starters wisely: A look at Juventus' squad depth
- Carlos Tévez can't stop scoring goals, Juventus subdue Milan 1-0 at the San Siro
- Game Time Thread: Juventus vs. AC Milan